“Dempsey” by Shayne Youngblood
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Shayne Youngblood steps into the ring in New York.
by Shayne Youngblood
Polo Grounds, Manhattan, NY
I’m sitting in Row A, Seat 1, dressed in a double-breasted dark oxford gray suit, a plain white shirt, a dark blue silk tie, a charcoal gray herringbone cashmere topcoat, and a Cavanagh gray fedora.
People come up to shake my hand, to be seen in my company.
Important outfit figures: Capone, pissed off, sitting in the third row, Johnny Torrio, Jim Pendergast from Kansas City, Solomon from Boston.
Jack Dempsey walks into the ring smiling, relaxed.
An uproar from 80,000 throats—the biggest fight in boxing history.
Luis Firpo looks to be in great shape, too. He’s a smart chap.
I told him to dive in the second, but to put up a fight.
I filled the hundred best seats with the cream of the crop: politicos, judges, movie stars, police chiefs, outfit.
I don’t want nobody to leave disappointed. The title stays home.
The bell dings.
Dempsey charges, swinging. Aggression personified.
Firpo throws down.
Dempsey drops to a knee.
A slip or a punch?
Dempsey springs up, unloading bombs.
Firpo goes down.
He gets up. Dempsey hits him again. He goes down again. And again. And again.
What the fuck is this?
I look at Ben Siegel sitting next to me. He’s thinking the same thing.
I tell Ben to go to Firpo’s corner, talk to his coach. Firpo’d better start throwing. Now.
Everybody’s gonna see this is a fuckin’ tank job.
I spent twenty-five grand and brought a hundred people to see this?
At the corner, Ben says a few words to Firpo’s cornermen, comes back.
I look at him. That’s all? my eyes say. You sure those morons got the picture?
Ben nods. “No problems.”
No problems? I mean, Ben is Ben, but those idiots are slow.
Nobody’s gonna win a Nobel Prize there anytime soon.
The cornermen yell at Firpo.
Firpo stops cleaning the canvas with his back. Gets up. Starts swinging.
An overhand right—right on the button.
Dempsey’s knees buckle.
Firpo lunges forward, unleashes another overhand right like he wants to kill the man.
Dempsey goes for a loop, flies through the ropes, drops out of the ring. Knocks off hacks in the first row.
Jesus fuckin’ Christ.
Firpo don’t fuckin’ understand what just happened.
He looks in my direction, his eyes apologizing.
His cornermen are slack-jawed, looking like they’re on death row. Well, technically they are.
The referee stalls the count. Five seconds pass. “One!” Another five seconds. “Two!” Hacks pushing Dempsey back through the ropes. “Three!” Dempsey getting up. “Four!”
Dempsey’s ready after a fourteen-second count. His legs are wobbly.
Both men swinging. Firpo missing. Clinch.
The end of the fuckin’ round.
“Want me to go talk to him?” Ben asks.
I shrugged. “This is no fuckin’ rocket science.”
The second round.
Dempsey swinging. Hooks connect. Wrestling. Firpo on his knees.
Gets up. Clinching, pushing.
Dempsey with a sloppy, short hook.
Firpo goes down like he’s hit by a truck.
He stays down.
A man can’t even enjoy boxing anymore.
Everybody’s clapping, standing ovation.
Dempsey celebrating, arms raised, smiling at the crowd.
I walk into Firpo’s locker room, Ben in tow.
The cutman’s removing Firpo’s hand wraps.
A doctor, the manager, the cornermen.
I nod to Ben.
He breaks the silence. “Everybody out.”
The manager moves to go, too.
He freezes, color dissipating from his face. “Mr. Luciano, we did exactly—”
I look at Firpo. He’s relaxed, smiling at me. “Did you like the fight, Mr. Luciano?”
I light a cigarette. “You got a nasty right hand, kid.”
His smile gets wider. “Thanks, Mr. Luciano.”
Ben puts his right hand into his inside pocket.
The manager stiffens.
Ben pulls out a fat bundle of C-notes and hands it to me.
I toss it into Firpo’s lap. “A little bonus.”
“Thank you, Mr. Luciano.”
I move to go. Ben follows.
“Mr. Luciano?” Firpo calls.
We stop at the doorframe.
Firpo grins. “If you need me to do this again . . . I mean, anytime.”
“There won’t be no next time, kid. You know why?”
He shrugs. “Why, Mr. Luciano?”
I toss a cigarette butt on the floor, step on it. “’Cause next time your right hand might get you all killed. You know what I mean?”
We walk out, shut the door behind us.
Boxing’s not what it used to be. Maybe I should focus on the racetrack instead.
SHAYNE YOUNGBLOOD has many things, but a permanent address is not one of them. He travels the world, driven by adventure and his own conception of freedom, which prevents him from settling down, growing roots, or having any long-term commitments. He wrote his first novella, A Man from Rio, while living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 12, 2015
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